Tag Archives: learning

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

When we go out for a meal, a day trip or a break away from home I always pack a bag of activities to keep my son entertained. When we go out we try to encourage him to work through an activity book or play a small game. We think it’s better for him and a more inclusive activity than just giving him our phones to play with. 

We were sent the new Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys to try out. These travel sized games tick all the boxes when it comes to packing our activities travel bag.

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

Spiders and Spouts is an update on the traditional snakes and ladders game, featuring characters from the Insey Winsey Spider nursery rhyme. Climb up the spouts to reach the finish line, but beware the rain clouds which will wash you back down again! The Spiders and Spouts travel game is suitable for children aged 4-7 and for 2-4 players.

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

The Orchard Toys Spiders and Spouts mini game is a cleverly designed 6 piece jigsaw puzzle which you piece together to form your classic board game. The box also contains four counters (for up to four players) and a dice.

Even though it’s only 6 pieces, my son was keen to help out and put the board together. The design on the board is lively with lots going on. The illustrations are really cheery and the Insey Winsey Spider theme was fun. Although it’s printed thick board, this game still has the practicality of being able to break the board up and fit it into a small box. 

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

Like the Orchard Toys games, the Sprouts & Spiders Mini Game has some educational and developmental benefits including –

  • Developing Personal and Social Skills
  • Encouraging Number and Counting Skills
  • Encourages Observational Skills

The Orchard Toys mini games cost around £4.99 and I think they are excellent value for money. They are light and compact, so I can just stick them in my bag and take them out with us. They’re brilliant for days out and holidays and are a fantastic travel game for children and families.

Review: Spiders and Spouts Mini Game from Orchard Toys

Note: Orchard Toys sent us the Spiders and Spouts Mini Game for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Win a Double Flip Fun & Games Mat worth £28

One of the best way children learn is through messy play. Messy play is also lots of fun, which is why kids enjoy it so much and are keen to engage with messy learning. Regrettably and inevitably this means that sometimes you can discover crayon and felt tip graffiti on the walls and carpets. No matter how carefully you think you’ve supervised them.

We love the Fun & Games Mat from Double Flip which is a great way to encourage a bit of creative play without having to worry too much about your walls. It’s perfect for taking out and about to the park for a picnic, or for having some rainy day fun at home. It’s been featured in the Guardian Christmas Gift list and the Saturday Telegraph Magazine. The mat has been designed, printed and hand made in Britain.  The Fun & Games Mat makes a great gift – and is practical, educational and above all fun. Double Flip Fun & Games MatSuitable for children aged 3 to 10 years, the Double Flip Fun & Games Mat is reversible and printed with fun activities on both sides. The mat encourages creativity, numeracy and literacy and is ideal for entertaining up to five children at once!

The pack includes a large reversible mat (120 x 100cm), ten double washable felt tip pens, a box of 5 dice, 6 counters and a fabric carry bag.

Kids will have hours of fun playing and drawing on this mat with the washable felt tip pens.  When they’ve finished, pop the mat in the washing machine on a cold wash, hang out to dry and play again!

Double Flip Fun & Games Mat

The Double Flip Fun & Games Mat includes a range of activities such as creative drawing, dot-to-dot, noughts and crosses, colour by numbers, letter writing practice, snakes and ladders and other dice games for older children. They won’t even realise they are learning while they play!

The Double Flip Fun & Games mat is available to buy online from the Double Flip website for £28. If you sign up to the Double Flip newsletter (at the bottom of their homepage) you can get 10% off your order!

WIN A Double Flip Fun & Games Mat worth £28

To be in with a chance to win a Double Flip Fun & Games Mat worth £28, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5.The winner will receive a Double Flip Fun & Games Mat worth £28.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 16th November 2016.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
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13. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

Review: Orchard Toys What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

This month the small boy started Year 1 and his learning has definitely stepped up a level. One thing his class are starting to look at is learning to tell the time. We’ve been talking about the time all year and trying to figure out what the time is on our kitchen clock, but Orchard Toys have just brought out a new game – What’s the Time Mr Wolf? to help 5-9 year olds learn to tell the time. We were sent one to put to the test, so what did the small boy think?

Orchard Toys What's the Time Mr Wolf?

What’s the Time Mr Wolf? is based on the popular playground game and is for 2 – 6 players, aged 5 to 9. It contains a jigsaw game board, character pieces and stands, time cards (with analogue and digital times on them), a slot together wolf and a large clock face with movable hands.

The game has been designed to help children to learn to tell the time and it is also fun and easy to play. Like many of the Orchard Toys games, it can be played at different levels. First play and learn to tell the time on a clock, once that skill has been mastered you can move onto learning to tell the time on a digital clock.

Orchard Toys What's the Time Mr Wolf?

When you open the box and get the game out, there are a lot of different elements, so it might look more complex than it is. The first version of the game (which is what we are playing, as the small boy is only 5) is pretty simple.

Choose a character counter (I was badger, he was hedgehog), go to the start and roll the dice. Move however many squares and if you land on a question mark you pick up a card from the stack of time cards. Then you read out the time, for example “ten minutes past ten” and without looking at the clock face on the back you move the hands on the big clock to that time. If they match then you can add your card to your collection board (with the matching character on it). The first one to fill their board wins.

If you don’t get the time right, then you have to return the card to the pile and the next player has a go. If you land on the wolf you shout “dinner time” and you must take a card from your collection board and feed it to the wolf. The small boy especially liked the shouting part, but I guess shouting is optional.

What's the Time Mr Wolf?

We played after school and the small boy couldn’t wait for his dad to come home from work to play it with him too. It’s great that the What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game is so enjoyable for him, it really helps with his learning. He’s got the game out most days after school which is really encouraging for me. I do have to watch him, I’m not saying he cheats, but I am saying that cheats never prosper!

I can’t really comment on the other version of the game for older players, as we’re not there yet and we’ve not played it, but it does help to teach older kids how to tell the time on a digital clock.

The What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game from Orchard Toys is made with sturdy recycled board and has a wipe-clean finish. All Orchard Toys games and puzzles are really robust and we’ve still got some which are four years old and have been played to death. 

What’s the Time Mr Wolf? is another cracking educational game from Orchard Toys. If you can make learning fun, then it doesn’t feel like learning at all.

To find out more about the What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game, visit the Orchard Toys website.

We were sent the Orchard Toys What’s the Time Mr Wolf? game fore review purposes. All Images and opinions are our own. 

Travel Toys: Jungle Snakes & Ladders Mini Game from Orchard Toys

One of the latest releases from Orchard Toys is their new range of Mini Games. The games are mini because they are small and very portable, making them ideal for travel or to slip into your bag for days out.

There are six new mini games to choose from –

  • Build a Beetle
  • Dinosaur Dominoes
  • Little Bus Lotto
  • Penguin Pairs
  • Jungle Snakes & Ladders
  • Crocodile Snap

The games vary, but generally they are for children aged 3+ and are based on classic games. We were sent the Jungle Snakes & Ladders game to play with, so I slipped it in my bag and took the boy out for a milkshake and a game or two.

mini games

The Orchard Toys Jungle Snakes & Ladders mini game rather cleverly is a 6 piece jigsaw puzzle which you put together and it forms your classic board game. The box also contains four counters (for up to four players) and a dice.

First of all the boy really enjoyed putting the puzzle pieces together. The board is lively with lots going on and he enjoyed following the numbers to ensure he was putting the pieces together correctly. He liked the monkeys and he’s re-christened the game “Monkeys, Snakes & Ladders” which seems factually accurate if nothing else.

The board is colourfully printed thick card, the usual thickness of Orchard Toys games, but with the practicality of being able to “break it up” and fit it into a small box. The game is really colourful and well illustrated in a way which wouldn’t put off older children or adults so much. 

Like the Orchard Toys games, the Jungle Snakes & Ladders mini game has some very helpful educational benefits including –

  • Developing Personal and Social Skills
  • Encouraging Number and Counting Skills

And that has certainly been evident every time we’ve played the game. As well as reinforcing turn-taking in game play, we also have used it to practice counting and learn to deal with the disappointment of sliding down a snake. He may have also practiced his cheating and I practiced calling him out on that. Cheaters never prosper! 

These mini games cost around £4.99 and are excellent value for money. They are light and compact, so I can just stick it in my bag and take it out with us. They’re brilliant for days out and holidays and are a fantastic travel game for children and families.

Note: Orchard Toys sent us this game for review purposes, all images and opinions are our own.

Creative Kids – Trying Out The BIC Drawy Book

I like to think of us as a family in touch with our creative side. We often spend an afternoon painting, drawing or crafting together and I’ve always encouraged a love of creative pursuits in the small boy. We were sent the new BIC Drawy Book to test out and it unleashed a new and exciting creative adventure for the boy and me.

All three of us had spent the week snuffling, wheezing and coughing, the small boy getting the worst of it with yet another ear infection. Friday was an inset day so I decided we needed a day of rest and some gentle crafting, so out came our new bag of BIC Drawy goodies and we set to work.

BIC Drawy

We were sent a BIC Drawy Book pack to play with, it contained a special colouring in book and a set of felt tips. The book is linked to the app, so you scan in the page to unlock a virtual experience. It is priced at £9.99 and you get the drawing and activity book , a packet of good quality BIC felt tips and access to the App. We didn’t get as far as trying that out, but what we did do left the small boy in wide-eyed awe.

First off, I should have read the instructions before we unpacked everything. I needed to download a free app (available from the Apple Store and Google Play) which did take a few minutes. Once the app was downloaded we opened it and followed the easy instructions.

BIC Drawy

We created a profile for the small boy and turned the volume up. There is only one story available at the moment, ‘Marty and the Alien’ which is suitable for ages 5+ and suited us down to the ground. There were three difficulty settings, but we chose the easy option to begin with.

The story opens with the engaging tale of Marty, a boy who wants to go into space, an alien lands in his garden and before you know it he’s in a rocket and zooming off to Planet X. Along the way the app has various activities which you need to complete, they’re all explained and my 5 year old soon got the idea and wanted to do them without my help. 

Throughout the story the app pauses and asks you to draw certain objects, photograph them with your tablet or phone and then it uses the images you’ve drawn in an animation. You can add stickers and embellishments to your drawings too.

BIC Drawy

They suggest that you draw the outline of your picture in black felt tip on white paper and then colour it in as you wish. The small boy could hardly contain himself as he saw the rocket he’d just drawn fly through space dodging asteroids and space debris, and he virtually rolled around laughing when the alien ate the cheese he’d drawn and did a cheeky burp afterwards. He was genuinely upset when we’d finished the story and we had to do it all over again from the start.

Despite being skeptical at first – I had to draw the first drawing for him and show him how it worked – he loved this BIC Drawy Book set. I loved it too, it was very well thought out, the story was engaging and it’s a great way to encourage creativity in kids. It can often be a little bit more difficult to encourage boys in particular to pick up a pen and get creative, but once he understood how it worked there was no stopping him.

I feel like we’ve only touched the surface of BIC Drawy and the app, there are several more levels of Marty and the Alien to explore, and we’ve not even really looked at the accompanying book yet. There’s a good deal of learning to be had from this too, for those interested in space there’s a part of the app where you can find out more about the planets in our solar system and there’s a quiz to test your space knowledge. On top of that it also develops their fine motor skills, concentration and creativity.

We were very impressed with BIC Drawy, we think it’s got so much potential. The boy is very happy with the existing story, but if they could develop a range of these then he’d be very happy indeed. I can’t wait for him to go to bed so I can have a go by myself – always the hallmark of a great product!

BIC Drawy

You can find out more about BIC Drawy by visiting their website.

Note: We were sent the BIC Drawy Book for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: Orchard Toys Activity Books

Working in a small independent toy shop I am lucky enough to get to hear about quite a lot of new toys, games, books and puzzles before they hit the shelves. I was super-giddy when I saw the new puzzles for this year from Orchard Toys, and several of them will be joining our collection at home at some point very soon. However I was especially interested in the new range of Orchard Toys Activity Books.

The small boy loves an activity book, he fell in love with them over Christmas and has been working his way through one a week ever since. 

There are six Orchard Toys Activity Books available, they are –

  • Animals Sticker Colouring Book, ages 3+
  • Make Believe Sticker Colouring Book, ages 3+
  • ABC Sticker Colouring Book, ages 4+
  • Number Sticker Colouring Book, ages 4+
  • First Words Sticker Colouring Book, ages 4+
  • Things To Do Sticker Activity Book, ages 5+

Each of the Orchard Toys Activity Books is 24 pages long and contains stickers for them to stick on the pages as they go along. We chose three of the activity books;  the Things To Do Sticker Activity Book, the Number Sticker Colouring Book, and the First Words Sticker Colouring Book.

Orchard Toys Activity Books

The activity books have colourful covers and are black and white on the inside, with large drawings and shapes to colour in. Where there are words or numbers to copy and write, they are dotted lines to draw over and lots of space to practice. 

The Number Sticker Colouring Book goes from 1 – 10 and includes practice writing the numbers, as well as counting activities, colouring in and sticking. All of which are great for encouraging the fine motor skills children of that age need to develop.

The First Words Sticker Colouring Book has 23 words to identify and write, as well as colouring in and stickers to stick. The words include cat, dog, drum, teddy and rocket. Again there are several chances to practice writing each word and extra space if you need it.

The Things To Do Sticker Activity Book is aimed at children aged 5+ and contains 20 pages of puzzles and things to do, including matching puzzles, word searches, dot to dots, mazes and simple sums.

I think activity books are great, we always have them out on the table to do a page or two when we get home from school. We don’t like to push him to do them, but he often asks to do a page of numbers or a dot to dot. They’re also great for taking out and about, an activity book and a couple of felt tips weigh virtually nothing.

Orchard Toys Activity Books

These Orchard Toys activity books are ideal for supporting the learning he is doing at school. We have been asked by his teacher to do more writing and pen holding at home, so even things like colouring in and learning to colour in the lines is great for his development.

  • Encourages Observational Skills
  • Encourages Number and Counting Skills
  • Encourages Discussion
  • Develops Shape and Matching Skills
  • Develops Hand Eye Coordination
  • Promotes Language and Literacy

For me, as equally important as supporting his learning and development at home is that he enjoys doing them and actively asks to do them with us, which he has done. We enjoy sitting with him and talking about what he’s doing and what’s happening on each page, we try not to make learning a chore.

These activity books are priced at £3.99 which I think is about average for an activity book like this (and I’ve bought lots and lots of them) and quite reasonable given the content and design. I think they’ve been well thought out and are a welcome addition to the Orchard Toys range.

You can find out more about the Orchard Toys Activity books on their website.

Note: We were sent these three activity books for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Valentine’s Day Crafts & Activity Sheets

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the small boy and I sat down for an afternoon of Valentine’s Day crafts and activity sheets to get us into the spirit of things. Generally Hubs and I don’t much go in for too many hearts and flowers, we’ve been together since 1995 so we’ve seen more Valentine’s Days together than most, but a heartfelt card and a small token gift is always the order of the day. 

We’d already started to make some cute heart shaped decorations using a heart decoration bead kit from Baker Ross. The kits include some nice long pipe-cleaners and lots of colourful beads. You thread the beads onto the pipe-cleaners and then bend into a heart shape. The kit comes with a little bell you can attach to the heart and some ribbon so you can hang it up. It was a lovely, fun activity which we did together. It was also great for helping to develop his fine motor skills which are essential with helping him to learn to write.

Valentine's Day Crafts

A reasonably quick but fun craft we did was to make these heart pets photo frame fridge magnets. Again these are from Baker Ross and they’re really easy to put together. The foam pieces and googly eyes all have peel off backs, so you just peel everything off and stick it together. The small boy enjoyed putting the frame together and making his doggy. He said he’s going to give his frame to Grandad on Valentine’s Day, because he loves him *heart melts*.

Valentine's Day Crafts

Again, the peeling and sticking actions are all great for those fine motor skills, and for exercising his pincer grip, we can’t get enough of that kind of thing at the moment.

Once we’d put our craft box away, we decided to have a go at some of the Valentine’s Day activity sheets we’d printed off from Twinkl, including the Valentine’s Day worksheet and the Valentine’s Day word and picture matching worksheets. These went down very well with the boy, we started with the word and picture matching, he spelt out every word and we looked at the pictures to see which we thought might match the word, he loves this kind of activity at the moment so I was glad we had a couple of sheets of these to do.

Valentine's Day Crafts

The worksheet was a little more challenging for him, he’s not a confident writer, so together we thought about some of the questions and how we might answer them. He verbally listed everyone he loved (dogs first, naturally) and then said his best friend was Daddy. He was getting tired by now, so we called it a day. I didn’t want to push things as that can be counterproductive. It was time for a cuddle and a walk in the park!

Valentine's Day Crafts

We both love our craft afternoons together. It’s lovely to see him focus on a task and enjoy sitting with me. These quiet moments with him are probably the highlight of my week. I think I know who my Valentine is this (and every) year.

Learning: Writing letters and numbers

Over Christmas a few developmental things seemed to fall into place for the small boy and he couldn’t get enough of activity books, specifically practicing writing letters and numbers. Not one to discourage this, I spent a small fortune on activity books, we were going through one book every other day over the Christmas holidays and he was thoroughly enjoying it. But there had to be a cheaper way.

I mentioned this to Karen from That Lancashire Lass and she suggested I have a look at Twinkl. Twinkl is a brilliant website full of fun educational resources for parents, teachers, childminders and home educators. It’s full of more resources than you could ever wish for, and whatever their flavour of the month is (it’s usually fire engines and dinosaurs here) there are loads of easily downloadable activities available. 

We thought we’d start off simple and just print off a number formation workbook and letter formation worksheets. Because we’re fancy, I got my OH to print them and bind them into workbooks (it is here when being married to a printer finally comes into its own), but they’d be fine loose or just stapled together.

Writing letters and numbers

The boy loves them. He’s had them about a week now and he comes home from school every day and wants to do a few pages with us, which is so great, we’ve not wanted to push him to do things too much so it’s a delight that he’s genuinely interested and excited to do things. We had an inset day on Monday so we spent some time doing crafts and working through some pages of his new workbooks.

Writing letters and numbers

Although he’s been able to write his name for well over a year now, I’ve found that since he’s been doing some writing practice every day that his letters are much clearer and smaller, he’s even grown in confidence enough to write Benjamin instead of Ben, it’s a big name for a little boy! As you can see from the above picture he’s totally nailed writing the number 12 too.

What we chose to start our Twinkl journey with were fairly straightforward activity sheets. I’m already planning for a few themed rainy afternoons using some of the downloaded Twinkl resources, so I’ll be blogging them at a later date.

If you need a bespoke resource they have a new tool to create your own resources – twinkl create.  I think Twinkl is a cracking website for anyone who likes doing activities at home with their kids, as well as for teachers needing some inspiration; I’m looking forward to doing some lovely learning with my boy.

Learning: Encouraging Creativity in Kids

When I was pregnant with the boy we sat down and had a number of earnest discussions about how we would bring him up. We made many decisions and made plans for him, whilst understanding that if he was like us he’d be stubborn and stick to his own path, so we’d let him follow that, but we knew we wanted to encourage some creativity in him. So we did.

We both love music and we knew we wanted to encourage a love of music in him, we’d love him to play an instrument and enjoy playing for himself, but we would be happy if he just enjoyed listening to music. He does love listening to all kinds of music. He has a few small instruments, he likes his guitar, but he’s developing a real love of the drums, so much so we’re taking him African drumming over the weekend. Drumming gives him a lot of pleasure, though less so the people around him but I’m sure he’ll find his rhythm eventually.

We knew we wanted to encourage him to lose himself in a book. Reading is such a wonderful gift for the imagination. Since before he was born we’ve read to him nightly. When we have an afternoon together we often snuggle up with a pile of books. He’s too young to read by himself yet, but reading has given him such a wonderful, bright imagination, I love sharing that with him.

encouraging creativity in kids

It’s well documented that despite a three year stint in an art college (doing a journalism degree) that I am terrible at arts and crafts. I am comfortable with the shonky nature of what I produce and my main aim is to teach the boy that arts, music and general creativity are for fun and personal enjoyment. It doesn’t matter so much if it isn’t perfect, it matters more that you enjoyed doing it. If you happen to have a talent or a gift for the arts then so much the better.

One way we try and encourage his enjoyment is by taking him to various creative learning events such as arts festivals, the theatre and to see interesting and diverse things such as African drummers and such like. It’s lovely to see him respond positively and enthusiastically to the new, exciting and colourful things he sees, and the feedback from school nursery is that our efforts are paying off. We have a boy who gets stuck into music, dance and drawing, we couldn’t be prouder!

How do you encourage creativity in your kids?

Toddler Fun Learning Videos on YouTube

I hate this time of year, if you’ve got a poorly toddler and the frozen rain (otherwise known as sleet) is lashing against the window; you’re less inclined to go out and about for ambles round your local park. Poorly toddlers are notoriously narky and difficult to entertain, which can result in some delightfully epic tantrums (not always his).

This afternoon it was particularly nippy and the toddler was particularly grumpy, so we decided to snuggle in mummydaddysbed™, drink hot chocolate and check out the YouTube videos from Toddler Fun Learning.

Toddler Fun Learning is a family-run British production company who produce videos for toddlers that look fantastic, but help your little loved ones with their counting, spelling, vocabulary and lots more. I was all over this concept because the boy is obsessed with YouTube, plus he has hearing problems which means his speech is a tiny bit behind, so if this can help then all the better.

watching videosWe watched a selection, including Twinkle Twinkle, Learn to count on Number Farm and The Wheels on the Bus. He loved them all. We watched them together (I’m very firm that the iPad is NOT a babysitter) and we sang along and chatted about what we saw; a cow; a hopping rabbit; a red tractor etc.

photo (28)He watched some of them several times over but particularly fell in love with “Lets Build a Steam Train: Learn about train parts“. He adores everything train related and this video showed all the pieces of a train with the words, I left the room briefly and returned to find him watching it for about the eighth time and reciting the words, which for me was brilliant I was so pleased.

He seemed to love all the videos, was engaged with them, laughed and got excited by them. We loved that the farm cartoons were mixed up with real footage of animals, he got so excited by that. I think the videos are great and a lovely learning tool for parents to enjoy with their toddlers.

NB. In a toddler nod to Hitchcock an orange cat appears somewhere in each of the videos. There’s no bonus prize if you spot it, but it is kinda fun.

The Toddler Fun Learning YouTube channel can be found here.